Once the workplace standard, 30-year-careers capped by gold-watch retirement parties have become a thing of the past. Back in the day, being hired by a company was like getting married. Both employer and employee expected the relationship to last “until death do us part” or at least until retirement at age 65. Today, the employer-employee relationship is more like casual dating. When people accept a job, they expect to stay with the company for no more than 3 to 5 years before moving on. Most of today’s workers will work for 5 to 7 different companies during their lifetimes and many will not only change jobs but move into completely new careers.

The lack of long-term stability in the workplace has eroded employer-employee loyalty. A recent workforce study found that nearly 70% of respondents believe that workers’ loyalty to their employers is waning, as is employers’ loyalty to their workers. On both sides of the equation, the workplace conversation between employers and employees has changed from “What can I do for you?” to “What’s in it for me?”

During the recent Chicago Ideas Week, which brought together some of the world’s most prominent movers and shakers, , investor and bestselling author Tim Ferriss (The 4-Hour Workweek) pinpointed three key changes in the workplace:

  1. Material beats methods accepts that there is more than one way to accomplish a task. It is the finished product, not the manner in which it is accomplished that is important.
  2. Performance over presence. Recognizing that work performance and quality are not dependent on where the work is performed unchains workers from the office and the standard 9-to-5 workday.
  3. Selective ignorance maximizes output. In other words, you can increase output if you don’t sweat the small stuff. Keep work energy focused on what matters and ignore meaningless (and usually time-consuming) processes and procedures.

The bottom line is: we are moving toward a virtual workplace where workers will work as a collaborative team, each person performing assigned tasks from his home and at his convenience within loosely-structured parameters.

Next time: Skills needed to compete in the virtual workplace